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Saturday, 24 March 2012
Gangtok: Nothing is permanent except change
Rajen Upadhyaya Somebody has correctly quoted the topic of today’s post. Nothing is static in this world, it keeps on changing. The present capital of Sikkim has also witnessed a lively change over the past 50 years. If we believe James Claude White, a British government officer and civil engineer, Gangtok, during his stay was just a small town situated around present day Lall Bazaar.
(M.G Marg Gangtok during 1973 protest Pic. courtesy sikkimonline.info)
Gangtok made its dawdling progress after British established their upper hand in the internal politics of Sikkim. The establishment of British Residency at Gangtok saw the beginning of concrete buildings with European design. During the exile of Maharaja Thotub Namgyal, construction of the marvelous edifice of the residency was completed. But, even during the last years of Maharaja Thotub Namgyal Gangtok was merely confined between Sikkim Palace and British Residency.
After the Indian Independence when the charge of protection of Sikkim was handed over to her new master, the dimension of Gangtok was slightly elaborated. It was now extended up to present day M.G. Road, which has presently got a beautiful walking mall. In 1948, an Indian adventurer Mr. A.D. Moodie, while going to climb Lama Aden in North Sikkim has visited Gangtok. During a brief interaction with me he stated that it was a small market where people during Haat Day came for shopping.
Indian merchants based in Gangtok and other towns in Sikkim used bullock cart to bring their commodities from Siliguri. But, during other days today’s M.G. Road used to remain silent.
Bullock Cart and a truck plying together on the road to Gangtok Pic. Courtesy http://sikhim.blogspot.com
In a documentary prepared in 1966, Gangtok has been shown exactly as stated by Mr. Moodie during his interaction with me. Even after the span of nearly 18 years (1948-1966) Gangtok is having its Haat at today’s M.G. Road itself crowded with the villagers from far flung places. The only difference one can find in the said documentary and Mr. Moddie’s statement is that, the bullock carts have been replaced by big trucks as the core means of communication and the old tin houses were in the process of replacement by concrete buildings. Sikkim Nationalized Transport was started in 1944. But until recent years bullock carts were popularly used as a cheap means of communication in Sikkim.
“The year 1955 also witnessed the first Tata Mercedes Benz Truck; Model L 312/36 being use on the road from Gangtok to Rangpo, Gangtok- Darjeeling daily Passenger service in land rovers was also introduced. An agreement for the counter signature of route permits by the West Bengal Authorities and of Sikkim State Transport vehicle was negotiated”.
Gangtok began to make its rapid progress after 1960s. The earlier small township of Gangtok was in for a massive change. The establishment of various Government Offices in every nook and corner of Gangtok mark the beginning of modernization of the capital. It is to be noted here that during Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal’s wedding with American Hope Cooke the Capital town of the former Himalayan Kingdom was having a distinct identity as far as organization and cleanliness was concerned. It is said that Gangtok then was nicely organized as compare to the Capitals of neighbouring Himalayan Kingdoms.
Over all these years, Gangtok has changed a lot. Its earlier years are going to be disappear in the pages of History. Already, the small town which it used to be with hardly had a thousand population has now a Municipal Corporation. Once, a silent Gangtok has now become a busy place crammed with locals and outsiders. Some one has rightly termed Gangtok as Manchester of the East. It’s on the journey to be one.
About the author: Rajen Upadhyay from Namchi, Sikkim is an Assistant Professor of History in the Namchi Government College. A passionate reader and sports enthusiast Rajen is working to revive the History of Sikkim. You can read his blog sikkim-historyhunter